It’s Winter time and the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder and there are some people who will began to experience a sense of sadness that they only feel during this time of year. Some call it the Winter Blues, but what if it’s more serious than that?
One of my clients experiences this. Every year around the Winter time she begins to feel sad, litheness and extra tired. Sometimes she gets deeply depressed and even has thoughts of killing herself. And then as Winter ends she comes out of it. It’s been like this for many years, for more years than she can remember.
She suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
What is SAD?
SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the same time of year each year for atleast two consecutive years.
Say for example that you feel depressed during the Winter, but feel much better during the Spring and Summer months, you may have SAD.
This doesn’t mean that you have SAD if the holidays remind you of a loved one that has passed away, so every Thanksgiving/Christmas you get depressed, that’s called grief. With SAD, there is no real reason for the unset of the sadness other than the seasonal changes.
What Causes SAD?
While some people may have Seasonal Affective Disorder during the Summer months (they usually feel more anxious, loss of appetite), it’s much more common during the Winter months due to shorter daylight hours and gloomy weather.
SAD’s prevalence in the U.S. ranges from 1.4% in Florida to 9.9% in Alaska. As a matter of fact, many people develop SAD when they move from warmer parts of the country to colder, northern parts.
It’s thought that the lack of sunlight upsets the body’s biological clock, circadian rhythms and interferes with serotonin, a chemical that affects mood.
Anyone can develop SAD, but it is more common in women, people who live far from the equator, people between the ages of 15 and 55 and also people who have a relative who has SAD.
Symptoms of SAD
SAD is often called Winter Depression and often people think it isn’t a serious disorder, but it is a type of major depression which means it can come with all the severe symptoms of major depression which include suicidal thoughts.
Other common symptoms include:
- Feeling sad, irritable, or anxious
- Loss of interest in things you usually found enjoyable
- Eating more
- Weight gain
- Sleeping more, but still feeling drained
- Difficulty concentrating
Common treatments for SAD include traditional therapy, antidepressants and light therapy (where you are exposed to artificial light for a duration of time that mimics outdoor light).
One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways of treating SAD is through exercise. Getting outside and going for a brisk walk, especially when the sun is out or doing anything including chores that get your heart pumping (especially if it’s near a window with sunlight), it can help combat SAD.
My client is so accustomed to this disorder that she prepares for it every Winter, mentally and physically so that she can get through this period with as little interruption to her everyday life as possible and she does so very well using all of the tools at her disposal including exercise, friends, her therapist and medication if needed .